Manuel Betancourt

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, or How "Cartoons are like maps" Part 2

March 7, 2008 · in Uncategorized

Alison Bechdel
Introduced by Hillary Chute
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
7:30 PM

[Part 2 of 2] Check out Part 1 here.

He used his artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not. That is impeccable.

After a wonderful “lecture” as she called it, Alison offered a reading of Fun Home’s first chapter ‘Old Father, Old Artificer.’ Now, if you are wondering how one does a reading of a comic-book, you’re not alone. I, myself, was wondering how it would work exactly. Aided by the beauty of technology, Alison had every panel blown up and projected, sans the ‘narrative’ dialogues that border every panel in the graphic novel, which she read out loud. The entire experience was haunting, moving and at times hysterically laugh out loud funny. Hearing Bechdel’s very personal and confessional words in her own dry tone, seeing her wince and scrunch up her face at certain times, pausing for laughter or for dramatic effect, lingering on certain words to heighten the irony of certain text/image juxtapositions… was just wonderful.

After the reading, and changing the tone of the room completely (we were a black hair dye, some mascara and a pair of black tappered Levi’s from going all emo by the time she finished chapter one) Alison proceeded to show us a bit about the graphic novel-ing process comes to pass. She ran through a typical page construction: everything from the laying out in Adobe Illustrator, to the creation of a font based off of her handwriting (she called it ‘cheating’ I call it practical – can you imagine that much work?!), to the rough draft of the panels through to the inking and then the watercolouring (done on a separate sheet, of course) giving us something that resembles the pages we have read avidly from our TPB purchased at Borders last Fall.

This led of course to the mandatory “Q&A” part of the session – a part of readings/lectures/etc. which I usually find tedious, uninteresting and honestly more times than not unnecessary. Oddly enough, the questions fired at Alison (usually prefaced with the usual ‘you were awesome!’) though seemingly obsessed with the IMAGE/TEXT dichotomy, still sparked great responses from the graphic novelist. Basically while the questions kept wanting her to choose (“If I had a gun to my head… words would edge out images… not by a lot though”) Alison kept stressing that to think of the two as distinct was counter to the way she thought about them – which led her to go back to her interesting suggestion: “cartoons are like maps.” That is to say, they are at once re-presentations of real places, but they also suggest a life of their own, there is depth and flatness, words and images, not distinct, not one, but both.

The more interesting questions?
“What are you working on next?” – Another memoir, and she told us she feels the weight of this book (and its advance!) every day when she sits down to work on it. Needless to say, we can’t wait!
“Is Fun Home gonna be a movie?” Or something along those lines. To which Alison spilled a great spoiler, which I won’t divulge here. Let’s just say cryptically that Fun Home might not be going the Persepolis route (“Why does everything have to be a movie nowadays?” she pondered… too many answers came to mind haha) but might go the… Seussical route…

Favourite Alison lines:

“Thank you Writers (no apostrophe) House”
“Why am I so compelled to talk about myself? Cause my parents never listened to me and I wanted someone to! I felt neglected!”

Check out Alison’s blog (and/or Part 1 of this blog post):